Criticism of the referee in the BVB vs. Bayern: why Jude Bellingham got away without being sent off

Also this time, the referee is in conversation after the top match between BVB and Bayern. The focus is on a failed elimination for Jude Bellingham. Deniz Aytekin shows understanding for his critics.

Of course, how much discussion about the referee after the final whistle of a match depends not least on whether the referee has had a significant influence on the course and outcome of the match in question from the point of view of the teams involved. In the matches between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munich in recent years, BVB has regularly complained publicly about the referees’ decisions after a defeat. For example last season, when the Dortmund side referees Felix Zwayer and Daniel Siebert were criticized for refusing to give the black and yellow a penalty in the first and second leg.

Alphonso Davies bruised his skull when Bellingham kicked him.

(Photo: IMAGO/Chai vd Laage)

On Saturday night, after the game at the Dortmund stadium, hardly anyone would have said anything negative about referee Deniz Aytekin had Anthony Modeste failed to equalize for the hosts and make it 2-2 in the last second. to make. This time, however, it was the disappointed Bavarians who spoke of a scene just before half-time in which Jude Bellingham, fighting for the ball, had punched his opponent Alphonso Davies on the head with the toe of his shoe without being a personal penalty. Not only according to Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann, Bellingham, who had already been warned, deserved at least the yellow card, which would have meant yellow-red and thus a majority for the record champions.

Aytekin himself explained in detail why he had waived the resignation. In an interview with Sky, he said the warning against Bellingham came after 13 minutes in the hectic opening phase of the game after two Munich players, Marcel Sabitzer and Mathijs de Ligt, had already been given a yellow card after foul games. The penalty was primarily intended to calm the game and was an optional, but not a mandatory, decision. With this background, he missed “the last conviction” shortly before half-time to show yellow-red and if possible intervene decisively in the game. The referee saw a degree of discretion as Davies approached Bellingham from behind and head slightly down. In other words, the Dortmunder couldn’t see the opponent and didn’t expect to hit him on the head.

‘Separately it is a yellow card’

On the show “Doppelpass”, Aytekin explained, “If you watch this scene in isolation and without emotions, it’s a yellow card. But us referees are always expected to have a certain empathy and sense of the situation.” Bellingham didn’t hit Davies on purpose, “and then as a referee you think: do I still have some wiggle room to use it?” According to the referee, there was that minimal leeway, but perhaps he also showed “a little too much empathy” in this situation. He understands any Bayern fan who says it’s a yellow card.

What Deniz Aytekin was talking about was the tension between the rules and their interpretation, the context of the game and the referee’s general playing behavior and his tactical use of discretionary powers. A game management is more than the sum of the individual decisions, which must also come together to form a whole, a line that suits the game character. Even a referee has a game plan, especially in a big game like this, the importance of which is already extraordinary from the worldwide attention – and which in the recent past has written its own stories, in which the referees also unintentionally played a leading role.

Why Aytekin changed his line

With 44-year-old Aytekin, one of the undisputed best, most popular and most experienced referees in the country led this ever-explosive clash. Aytekin’s great strength lies in his personality, he likes to resolve conflicts – and usually very successfully – with communication instead of cards. And he is a game master who not only decides technically, but also always adjusts his discretion, as far as technically possible, to what the game asks and thus is useful to him. In Dortmund, however, Aytekin showed the first yellow card after one and a half minutes, after less than fifteen minutes three players already received a warning. That’s unusual.

It was clear that the third yellow card, the one for Bellingham, stemmed more from the referee’s tactical considerations to take the first suitable opportunity to restore balance after two warnings against Bayern players. But Bellingham mostly played the ball in a duel with Jamal Musiala and Musiala’s fall looked worse than the BVB pro’s entry. Aytekin had bought the balance with too strict a standard, creating the risk of an unnecessary deluge of cards. The referee then moved away, otherwise he would have had to warn Leon Goretzka in the 22nd minute for his vicious play against Niklas Süle. And finally, Bellingham also took advantage of Aytekins’ now generous line on personal penalties.

Technically, the referee’s discretion after Bellingham’s foul on Davies – in which he saw an advantage as the Munich side had a promising attacking opportunity – was actually minimal. Julian Nagelsmann was wrong when he said pre-season training taught that any foot strike to an opponent’s face would result in a red card. Instead, two scenes from last season’s UEFA competitions were used to show Bundesliga clubs the difference between when such a goal leads to a ban and when just a warning. Red, for example if the foot hits the head head-on with the open sole, will only be yellow if the opponent was not in line of sight and a blow to the instep occurs.

Conducive to the game, but hard to justify in terms of rules

But judging by these reference scenes, the Bayern coach had at least one point that a personal punishment would have been appropriate. At the same time, even in the Bayern camp there was a voice that could understand Aytekin’s decision not to prematurely end Jude Bellingham’s assignment: “To be honest, I’m a bit with the referee and I understand that he doesn’t leave the stadium. want to leave for good, want to bring cooking,” said former CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. It is also possible that Aytekin had some thoughts about Dortmund’s reactions after the games against Bayern in recent years. At a yellow-and-red for Bellingham, BVB would certainly have complained about the first warning in a defeat and complained about another major disadvantage of the referee.

This first yellow card to Bellingham – motivated mainly by the referee’s tactics, but ultimately exaggerated – created the issue discussed after the final whistle. Aytekin later tried to fix it by omitting yellow-red – which was actually balanced and helpful in the addition of both scenes, but hard to justify in terms of rules.

In the second half, the penalty suited the game better, it was more convincing, even with yellow and red against Kingsley Coman in the 90th minute after the second crystal clear tactical error – here the referee had absolutely no choice. Leroy Sané’s light kick during a fall to the chest of Karim Adeyemi, who had previously fouled the Munich player, was not to be considered an attack and, like Adeyemi’s foul, was only penalized with a warning , was also appropriate.

After the camp change, Deniz Aytekin was also able to better utilize his greatest strength, game management, through personality and communication. And if Modeste hadn’t scored the late equalizer, the impartiality probably wouldn’t have been an issue. It is all the more valuable to him that he – again – answered questions from the media and openly explained why he made the decisions he made in the most controversial situations. He also provided insight into a referee’s tactical considerations, which should be much broader. If only because the referees’ match management is easier to understand.

(This article was first published on Monday, October 10, 2022.)

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